Week 5 is in the books and my squad is 2-3 and fourth overall in points scored, including a 163-point weekend without Calvin Johnson and a month-long lack of an RB2, thanks to a Steven Jackson injury.
The record isn’t pretty, but I’m feeling pretty good considering that I lost by six points in the opener to Bob Harris, suffered a 50-point blowout to Jim Day’s first-place squad, and then took a 56-point drubbing from Jason Wood’s No.2-scoring team. Everyone else will have to face the likes of Day, Wood, and Fontaine and I should be getting Jackson and Johnson back soon enough. Even if I don’t, I’m enthusiastic about the long-term potential of my roster based on my contract-talent balance:
- Wide Receivers: This is the strength of my team. I have Calvin Johnson through 2014, DeSean Jackson and Keenan Allen through 2015, and Cecil Shorts through 2016. Allen, my 2013 first-round pick, has shown the past two weeks that he’s not only healthy, but Philip Rivers is developing confidence in the rookie. Then there are Kenbrell Thompkins and Marlon Brown, who are eligible for me to franchise. It’s unlikely I do because, barring health issue, I have a strong corps in place for the next 2-3 years that could get stronger if Marquess Wilson can assert himself as a viable WR3 for the Bears in 2014. Considering I’m strong long-term at 40 percent of my starting lineup, I’m happy.
- Running Backs: While a weakness of my team this year, there’s a good chance it could be a lot stronger next. I have Arian Foster through 2014 and Ben Tate through 2015. This could be a fine RB1-RB2 combination next year if Tate stays healthy and a team like the Browns sign him to a free agent deal. Jackson’s deal will expire at the end of this year, so I’m hoping I can get the most from him down the stretch for a playoff run. My depth at this position is poor. I turned down deals for Danny Woodhead and Andre Ellington from Mike Clay – both solid offers that made me think hard about my team’s direction. At the end of the day, I couldn’t give up Cecil Shorts’ four-year deal in exchange for RB2/flex depth with potential long-term upside. It’s likely I’ll be going strong to the hole at running back next year.
- Tight End: This is the position I’m most likely to franchise a player in 2014. Vernon Davis and Julius Thomas’ deals will expire at year’s end and Thomas is playing at a level where it will be difficult for me not to tag him if Peyton Manning plays another year.
- Quarterback: Jay Cutler is another candidate for franchising, but the 2014 QB class might draw my attention because it would be nice to have a player I could anchor. Still, three years at the early end of a QB’s career isn’t all that appealing when there should be a glut of talent at the position for me to acquire via free agency. If not, Cutler might be my hedge.
- Defense: Seattle’s defense is the No.2 fantasy unit in this league and a long-shot candidate for a franchise tag.
- Kickers: Robbie Gould and Sebastian Janikowski are solid at this point, but I’m effectively signing year-to-year leases when it comes to this position.
What about the rest of the league? Here are some notable teams:
Jason Wood went with an approach to sign core players at each position to long-term deals: Adrian Peterson (2 years), Aaron Rodgers (3 years), Demaryius Thomas (4 years), Reggie Bush (2 years), Eddie Lacy (3 years), Jared Cook (3 years), and Philip Rivers (2 years). Based on his wealth at running back and quarterback, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s trading some of that depth in the next 12-18 months because as well as he’s scoring, his receiving corp is weak beyond Thomas. This might change as the Chargers find the best way to use Vincent Brown and/or the Vikings continue to use Matt Cassel, who has a rapport with Greg Jennings.
Sigmund Bloom also took the core player approach. His deals with Rob Gronkowski (4), LeSean McCoy (3), and Jordy Nelson (3) diversify his portfolio, but the attempt to capture a stranglehold on quality quarterbacks isn’t working as hoped with Sam Bradford (2) and Ben Roethlisberger (2), and Geno Smith (3). It still could, but Bloom might be hoping to trade one of these guys. It’s massive weight for his team – and the squad is performing well enough that he can win without a top-name signal caller. However he also appears stuck with Jonathan Stewart for a couple of years and Tavarres King at a three-year deal could be costly if he doesn’t hook up with another team and emerge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he franchises Alshon Jeffery at year’s end.
Bob Harris is set at QB (Matt Ryan – 3 years) and keeps Jamaal Charles for through 2014. However, Harris opted to structure his team with a lot of one-year deals and took a cautious approach towards long-term contracts this year – no four-year deals and only one three-year deal for a non-rookie. He could be a major player in free agency next year.
Bryan Fontaine may have Isaiah Pead and Brian Quick signed four-year and three-year deals weighing him down somewhat if the second-year runner and receivers continue to disappoint in the box score, but Fontaine does have multi-year deals with Dez Bryant (3), Larry Fitzgerald (2), DeMarco Murray (2), and Dwayne Bowe (2). With Jordan Cameron and Antonio Gates playing well, I won’t be shocked if one of these studs is franchised and Fontaine is looking hard for a quarterback when Matt Stafford and Jake Locker become free agents at year’s end. Considering Bryan has $10.6 million available before contracts expire, he’ll have a lot of bidding power to find the passer he wants.
Every month I’ll be writing something about the start-up keeper-contract-salary-auction league I’m running at Reality Sports Online. You can read more about RSO’s excellent league formathere. And if you want to start a league with your friends or join a league as an individual, you can earn a 20 percent discount when you use the promo code RSP20%OFF.